My mom taught me how to sew when I was really young. I've always had a great interest in fashion, and I would always buy as many fashion magazines as I could. I created my first piece when I was eight: I turned an old dress into a dining gown by adding faux fur, and then I modelled it for my family! From that point on, all the artists around me – especially my aunties – influenced me. My favourite designer and greatest source of inspiration is my auntie Karen Wright-Fraser. I love how she is such a strong representative of the Gwich'in people through her artwork. I hope one day to inspire and encourage others too, especially my four children.
I got into quilting in my twenties, but when I learned I was pregnant with my first daughter at 29 years old, I started sewing a lot more for her. In 2013, we moved to Norman Wells and in 2014, I turned my sewing into a full-time business. Throughout the years, I learned how to bead and embroider, but sewing is what stuck with me the most. I especially love making traditional parkas and fur mitts.
For the past few years I’ve had a strong desire to become a dressmaker and to design couture with a traditional flare. The year 2020 is going to be an exciting one for me – I will be starting a two-year fashion diploma starting in January, be one of the vendors at the Indigenous Fashion Week in Toronto in May, and participate in the Great Northern Arts Festival Fashion Show in July in Inuvik.
Sewing has become my quiet time from all the chaos in my life! It feels like such a relaxing, peaceful and productive thing for me to do. I feel like I am contributing in some special way. I also really identify with sewing because it connects me to my culture. This is one thing that I can definitely pass down to my children. I want my children to continue being interested in sewing and hopefully carry this tradition with them. I especially want them to see me become who I’ve always wanted to be: a great designer and a master of my craft just like my auntie. I want them to know that with great determination and much heart, they can accomplish anything that they desire.
Dorathy is a self-taught quilter and artist. She is Gwich’in, originally from Inuvik and comes from a family of artists.
The focus of her work is on the qualities of color, line, and texture, which will captivate the spirit and emotions of the viewer, sparking a sense of mystery, excitement, or joy. She aspires to become a contemporary dress maker and hopes to one day open a craft store to display her textile work and provide materials/designs to the communities of the Sahtu.
Learning to quilt with the help of some how to videos, she picked up the skill easily and naturally. Dorathy was taught traditional beading and embroidery throughout junior high and high school and has taken classes on specific quilt patterns such as, water colour rails and double pinwheel.
Having over ten years of experience as a quilter and artist, Dorathy has been selling and donating quilts for over five years. Some of the groups that have received her works include the Norman Wells Land Corporation, Mackenzie Mountain School, NTSPCA, Norman wells Legion, Arctic Paws, East Three Girls Basketball Team as well as many local families.
It is her desire to continue to support, educate and donate to her local community in hopes that her crafting skills can encourage other young crafters and artists to engage in healthy and productive hobbies.